Where a driver is convicted or accepts that they are guilty of an offence, they might be able to establish that there are special reasons why penalty points should not be endorsed on their licence. The same principle applies to offences that attract discretionary and mandatory periods of disqualification. This means that if a driver proves that Special Reasons exist the court will either reduce the period of disqualification or impose no disqualification at all.
Special Reasons (Section 34(1) Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988)
Special reasons can be described as a reasonable explanation for why the offence took place which justifies the court from not imposing the usual penalties. There is no legal definition, but several cases have established that Special Reasons must be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance, not amounting to a legal defence but be directly related to the offence itself and be one which the court ought to properly take into consideration when imposing a sentence.
Special Reasons can arise in a variety of circumstances and each case will be decided on its own unique facts. A special reason is not a legal defence to the charge in question, and it will only apply where the driver either accepts they have committed the offence or where they have been convicted of an offence after trial. Special reasons must be directly related to the commission of the offence and cannot refer to the personal circumstances of the driver. This means that the consequences of penalty points or disqualification on the driver cannot amount to special reasons. Should you believe the latter applies then please see our section on exceptional hardship.
Procedure for Special Reasons
An application for special reasons must be raised by the driver at the time of sentence. This should happen at the point at which they are convicted or where they committed the offence and pled guilty. In the normal course of events, once an application for special reasons has been made the court will fix a date for a hearing which is called a Special Reasons Proof.
The responsibility is on the driver to prove that special reasons exist and that these would justify the court from not imposing penalty points or disqualification. In practice the driver will give evidence and lead other evidence to establish that there are special reasons. Defence witnesses may also be called to support the application for special reasons. If this evidence is not accepted by the prosecutor, the driver will be cross-examined and the evidence they rely on will be challenged. The prosecutor may however accept what is said by the driver. In this situation, the court can simply hear submissions in the absence of any evidence.
The Court’s Decision
At the conclusion of the hearing the court will make a decision that special reasons have or have not been established. Where special reasons are established, the court can order that no penalty points are endorsed on the licence. If the offence carries disqualification, the court can reduce the period of disqualification or impose no disqualification at all.
Examples of Special Reasons:
- Medical emergency or some other emergency
- The shortness of the distance driven
- Escaping danger or threatening behaviour
- Special Reasons & Driving without Insurance Offences
Special Reasons may apply if the driver or owner of the vehicle can establish that there was a genuine and honest belief that insurance cover was in place and that genuine and honest belief was based upon reasonable grounds.